Friday, March 25, 2011

Don't go, Aqua Riva!

Recently both Lumiere's and DB Bistro closed down, 
WITHOUT me having a taste of their fine food before their closing.  I've heard great things about both restaurants, but never got a chance to try them, and I regret that.  Though one restaurant that I have tried, and loved, was Aqua Riva.  After hearing about their future summer closing, I thought "I HAVE to go there again".  My friends and I were literally squealing and jumping out of our seats while waiting for our food.  Why? Because the three course menu looked so damn decadent.  Surprise was a huge element played in our enjoyment of the food of course, when we arrived at Aqua Riva, we never expected a three course menu to be waiting patiently beside the un-touched regular menu.  Not only did it consist of our favourite foods, but the food was made as it should at a fine dining restaurant: fresh, indulgent, and of course, delicious.

Truffle Pizza
Organic Greens with Madrona
Valley Goat Cheese Brulee with
roasted almonds, Chilliwack dried
cranberries, candied salmon
 & lemon basil vinegrette
J started with a pizza, I don't remember what was on it besides truffles (and of course cheese) but god, was it delicious.  T and I started with the Candied Salmon Salad.  Which just happens to be one of my favourite things ever - wait, almost every food is my favourite thing ever.  Slightly drizzled with a refreshing dressing, pieces of candied salmon, nuts, and topped with creamy goat cheese. 

Lamb with Mashed Potatoes

White Asparagus Risotto
For my 
Salmon with Risotto
main course, I couldn't pass up the salmon filet with truffle risotto - salmon and truffles are VERY high up on my "Favourites" list (yes, I said before that I don't play favourites but...).  J, being more of a meat eater ordered the lamb.  Not just any lamb, but Wood Grilled Peace River Lamb Sirloin with roasted shallot & yam puree, date & pistachio marmalade with mashed potatoes.  T, ordered the third option which was the White Asparagus risotto.
Chocolate cake or Apple-cranberry crisp? I don't know about you, but I couldn't decide.  I had to call my waitress back to change it from the Chocolate Cake to the Apple-cranberry crisp.  This decision was so difficult - I thought that my mind was going to implode.  C'mon, who doesn't love chocolate cake? Especially with mousse. Mmm...  But I always get Chocolate cake when I get dessert, so to try something different, I got the Crisp - and boy, was I ever happy.  This crisp, was so... beyond what words can describe.  It got me hooked onto Fruit Crisps.  The oat coating was the perfect texture, it had enough 'crisp' to it to complement the piping warm soft fruit inside.  Just pure happiness.
So there you have it - a three course heavenly meal that was enjoyed by a Foodie and her friends with no guilt.  It's good to have those meals once in a while - or daily.  It's up to you. (I prefer daily, but my thighs and stomach disagree)

Now lets take a 180

Unlike the elegant and delicious food of Aqua Riva, Shaughnessy Restaurant's pricy hit and miss menu doesn't appeal to my tastebuds.
First Experience: I had got to try several menu items - Seafood Stuffed Cannelloni with lobster scented cream sauce, Pacific Coast Paella, Crispy Organic Steelhead Trout & Seared Qualicum Scallop with Lemon Spatzel with toasted almonds, and the Mac & Cheese with a side of fries.  The calorie bomb of a Cannelloni was delicious, it was the best thing that I tried there that night. The side watercress and tomato salad was also very tasty.  My second favourite thing I tried was a tie between the Paella and the Mac & Cheese, but that doesn't mean that I liked it that much.  The Paella was kinda dry, and just meh tasting.  The Mac & Cheese had a nice crispy coating, and was filled with cheese and bacon which didn't enhance the flavour, which I'm sure was the purpose of the bacon.  Other than making it's consumers a pound heavier.  Then the Lemon Spaztel was just... no.  I didn't really enjoy that enough to take a bite of the Trout.
Second Experience: "First the worst, second the best..." did not apply to my second experience at Shaughnessy restaurant.  This time my favourite meal was the Grilled Prawn & scallop Quesadillas.  My only complaint about them would be that they were dripping with oil from being deep fried - that made them crispy and even more delicious, but they were WAY too oily, and not filled with enough prawns and scallops.  All I could taste (and see) was cheese, oil, and the crispy outer crust.  My brother ordered the Mac & Cheese again, and this time, I'd have to say it was pretty good.  But like the Quesadillas, the Mac & Cheese was way too oily.  It was possibly from the bacon - but then why was the first time my brother ordered this was this dish more dry?  I could also take another guess that they put more cheese in this time, but I'm not sure why it was better this time.  My grandmother had the Chicken Pot Pie which I didn't taste, but it looked good.  My grandfather had the Clam Chowder Soup, and the Hamburger.  The soup looked meh, and the burger, looked greasy.  I stole half his toasted bun because he didn't eat any of his burger with cheese and bacon, and also because my bun on my tuna burger looked as if it just came out of a bag that was bought at Safeway.  My Tuna Burger was filled with cabbage, tuna, dill and chive aioli, and tomatoes.  You would think that there would be some tuna in a tuna burger, but I was able to finish my tuna with half of the bun left.  As for the dill and chive aioli, I asked to have it on the side, but they smothered it all over the burger, and all I could see was what I thought was coldslaw, but it was just the green cabbage and aioli.  With the tuna hiding in the mess of cabbage.  So I sent it back to get the aioli on the side, and I think they gave me an un-toasted bun because of it.  Let's just say I was not a happy camper with this burger, at all.

Aqua Riva on Urbanspoon

Last Words: Go check out the VanDusen Gardens, but skip the garden salad, or the restaurant as a whole unless you want to play a little lottery with the food.  As for Aqua Riva, I suggest giving it a taste before it's too late; Like it was for me and Lumiere's and DB Bistro.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Les petits gateaux au chocolat

One of my favourite snacks ever is "jumbo" or "giant" corn, which I've only found in Japan or Japanese stores (like Daiso).  It's like a Japanese version of kettle corn, without the saltyness.  The ingredients are: corn, sugar, sea water, corn syrup, and honey.  Soo you can extract that its sweet.  BUT it's the perfect combination of sweetness and crunchyness - It's not too sweet at all, and I'd much prefer indulging in a bag of Jumbo Corn than Kettle corn or Caramel corn. I suggest you go out and buy a bag yourself (Warning: it is VERY hard to find.  I've had it shipped to me from Japan till a couple days ago when Daiso JUST started shelving them).  In fact, I consumed a whole bag this afternoon.  Once I start eating Jumbo Corn, I can't stop.. no joke.

Another treat that's hard to stop eating is the Classic Chocolate Cupcake. Who doesn't love a good chocolate cupcake? Especially when they're decorated with buttercream and sprinkles.

This simple recipe for the cake and icing is a perfect base recipe - you can add chocolate chips, peanut butter, marshmallow filling, caramelized banana's, almond flavoured buttercream - anything your craving at the time you're making these!  You can alter, taste, and test - then perhaps tell me your new concoctions for me to taste & test.

Chocolate Cupcakes or Cake
Makes 12 Cupcakes or 1 8" cake

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Fry's cocoa powder - not Dutch processed)
1/4 cup room temp butter, shortening, or half of each (I prefer all butter)
1/2 cup milk or 1/4 cup buttermilk & 1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
(for cupcakes only: 12 baking cups)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Grease the 8" pan, or line up a muffin pan with the baking cups
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder
  4. Add the butter, milk, and vanilla
  5. Mix with a wooden spoon around 300 hand strokes or for 2 minute on medium speed with an electric mixer, constantly scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl
  6. Add one egg at a time
  7. Beat for another 2 minutes
  8. Evenly disperse the batter into the muffin tins with an ice cream scooper or spoon, or scrape all the batter into the cake pan
  9. Bake for about 25min for the cupcakes, or 35min for the cake (insert a toothpick in the middle, about 5 min before, to see whether its done or not) - its better to check because ever oven is different, and you don't want an overbaked cake!
  10. When the inserted toothpick comes out dry, take the cupcakes/cake out of the oven, and let cool completely before frosting
Vanilla Butter Icing
Makes enough to ice 12 cupcakes or 1 8" cake

1/2 cup room temperature butter
2 and 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk (or more if necessary)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: food colouring

  1. In a large bowl, beat butter with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until light and fluffy
  2. Add icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time, making sure that the mixture is smooth before you add the next 1/2 cup
  3. Beat in milk and vanilla
  4. Spread onto the cake or pipe onto cupcakes
  5. Icing will slightly harden, but it'll still taste good

This isn't necessarily the BEST icing I've ever had, its just the one I used for this recipe.

So there you go, you have another simple chocolate recipe.  Nothing special, but it will cure those chocolate cravings, so go ahead, indulge :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Duffin (noun): a donut muffin

Choices: One of the most difficult things to make in this world.  For instance, should I have a donut or a muffin for my after school snack?  The decision could take from an instance to 26 minutes, because after all you have to weigh the pro's and con's.  A donut has a texture that no other baked good has - it's light, fluffy, yet dense (yes, that was a total contradiction but I don't know how else to explain it).  
A muffin is moist, crumbly, and both can be filled, or topped with sprinkles, icing, chocolate, jam, sugar, cinnamon, fruit, did I mention a combination of sugar & cinnamon?  This is where my brain came to aid, as it recalled seeing a recipe for "Donut Muffins" before while searching through recipes of some of my favourite food blogs, and a smile crept up on my face when I realized, I can make a duffin :)

The cake itself is moist, fluffy, with the hint of nutmeg giving it that donuty taste.  Then the topping - Mmm.  I've been having an obsession with cinnamon lately so I absolutely adore anything with cinnamon.  Though this duffin may not taste exactly like a donut, it's a good alternative to the deep-fried treat, and perhaps even better.  Another alternative for the topping would be a streusel type topping with brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon baked right onto the muffin.  Next time, I gotta try that.  But that is how I spent my afternoon, eating duffins.

The Donut Muffin, or as I like to call it, "Duffins"
Adapted from Buns in My Oven who obtained it from Baking Bites
Makes approx 10-12 muffins (it made 11 for me)

3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking power
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup milk (I used evaporated milk because I had an excess amount of that)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling*
1 tbsp of cinnamon, for rolling*
*NOTE: The topping is up to you! You can add/take out spices. Ex. if you don't like cinnamon, veto it.  Also, you can get away with using half the sugar- cinnamon topping mixture, because I had left overs from using half the amount above.
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a muffin tin with cooking spray or oil.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together sugar and egg until light in color.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Pour into egg mixture and stir to combine. Pour in oil, milk (in my case, evaporated milk) and vanilla extract.
  4. Divide batter evenly into 10-12 muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake for 15-18 minutes (the more muffins you have, the less time it will take - the muffins will be smaller), until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. While muffins are baking, melt butter and pour the topping ingredients (sugar & cinnamon) into a small bowl.
  7. When the muffins have cooled for a bit, dip the top of each muffin in the melted butter, and roll in the sugar-cinnamon mixture.
  8. Eat immediately, or wait till the butter has soaked through the muffin and the coating has become crunchy, or do both.  Either way, enjoy your duffin :)
Left: Without the Cinnamon-sugar Topping
Right: Donut Muff- I mean Duffin ;)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Birthday Brownies & Beauty and the Beast

Who didn't dream of being a princess as a little girl?  With a glistening tiara, heavenly voice, and gorgeous ball gown, Disney Princesses are idols for kids all over the world.  It just so happens that they aren't idolized by kids, but teenagers too.  Specifically high school drama students.  Since September, I have been practicing my ass off for our school production of Beauty and the Beast, which has taken up SO much time, especially in the past couple of months, that I haven't had any time to bake or post anything up in this blog. I'm sorry about that!  But what it has taught me was that magic does exist, and regardless of being such a time consuming project, in the end tears flowed from my eyes like water out of a fountain - they couldn't be stopped.  So for our last performance, I decided to get everyone sugar high on brownies - with icing! I used a recipe that I've previously tried, and succeeded! But since I ran out of time for decorating, I have no pictures of the Beauty and the Beast brownie cake.  (not really a cake but I'm calling it one because I made it in a 9 x 13 inch pan.

These brownies are delicious, I always get good remarks out of them.  The icing on the brownies were not needed because the brownies were so good on their own, but icing does make a difference and makes it more like a cake!

They were VERY tender, moist, with a crispy crust... everything that a brownie can ask for.  They weren't overly sweet, or as thick as a brick, they were the perfect combination of everything.  And I'm sure the other 72 040 people who saved this on Allrecipes agrees with me.

I found this recipe on Allrecipes, and decided to give it a try. It's called "Best Brownies", and though they were pretty darn delicious, I don't know if they were the best brownies I've ever had.  Mainly because I rarely have brownies, but also because this is just one recipes out of a million that I've tried.  Hopefully I'll get to another brownie recipe soon and I'll do a comparison.

Adapted from Allrecipes

I made these brownies for my sister's advisory class for her birthday, everyone enjoys cake, and I enjoy baking so what a better excuse to stay up late baking? Especially for your sister because then she has to treat you nicely otherwise she knows you wont do something like this again.  But what she doesn't know is that I'll take any excuse to bake.

I'm sorry the lighting it terrible in the above picture 
(It's also my camera, I don't have a pro one yet)


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan.

  1. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  2. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.
  3. To Make Frosting: Combine 3 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 cup confectioners' sugar. Frost brownies while they are still warm.

I doubled the recipe (except I used 2-3 eggs) and made it into a 9x13 inch brownie. I also added a tablespoon (or more if preferred) to the icing to make it more spreadable since I found that it was too thick to spread.  The icing also was VERY sweet, so if you like a less-sweet icing I suggest trying this one instead:

Adapted from Bakingdom, who got it from The Pioneer Woman's recipe "The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever.

This was the icing recipe that I used for the second time I made this brownie.  The first time I used the icing recipe that came with the "Best Brownie" recipe, but I decided to change it up for this time and found this alternative recipe that I thought was better!

3/4 cup, plus 2 tablspoons (1 3/4 sticks or 14 tablspoons)unsalted butter

1/2 cup cocoa powder
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
2. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder until fully incorporated. Add the milk, vanilla, and salt whisking to thoroughly combine.
3. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing until fully incorporated and smooth.

The original recipe said to use nuts in the icing, but I omitted the nuts and just made a plain chocolate icing.

So I challenge you to find a better brownie recipe (perhaps the one from Bon Appetit magazine is better?) and share your thoughts on this brownie recipe, other brownie recipes, and icing recipes.

Don't forget to watch the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast while enjoying your brownies :)